A refinery where hydrogen is produced via natural gas reforming

Hydrogen Production: Natural Gas Reforming

Natural gas reforming is an advanced and mature production process that builds upon the existing natural gas pipeline delivery infrastructure. Today, 95% of the hydrogen produced in the United States is made by natural gas reforming in large central plants. This is an important technology pathway for near-term hydrogen production.

How Does It Work?

Natural gas contains methane (CH4) that can be used to produce hydrogen with thermal processes, such as steam-methane reformation and partial oxidation.

A refinery where hydrogen is produced via natural gas reforming

Although today most hydrogen is produced from natural gas, the Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technologies Office is exploring a variety of ways to produce hydrogen from renewable resources.

Steam-Methane Reforming

Most hydrogen produced today in the United States is made via steam-methane reforming, a mature production process in which high-temperature steam (700°C–1,000°C) is used to produce hydrogen from a methane source, such as natural gas. In steam-methane reforming, methane reacts with steam under 3–25 bar pressure (1 bar = 14.5 psi) in the presence of a catalyst to produce hydrogen, carbon monoxide, and a relatively small amount of carbon dioxide. Steam reforming is endothermic—that is, heat must be supplied to the process for the reaction to proceed.

Subsequently, in what is called the “water-gas shift reaction,” the carbon monoxide and steam are reacted using a catalyst to produce carbon dioxide and more hydrogen. In a final process step called “pressure-swing adsorption,” carbon dioxide and other impurities are removed from the gas stream, leaving essentially pure hydrogen. Steam reforming can also be used to produce hydrogen from other fuels, such as ethanol, propane, or even gasoline.

Steam-methane reforming reaction
CH4 + H2O (+ heat) → CO + 3H2

Water-gas shift reaction
CO + H2O → CO2 + H2 (+ small amount of heat)

Partial Oxidation

In partial oxidation, the methane and other hydrocarbons in natural gas react with a limited amount of oxygen (typically from air) that is not enough to completely oxidize the hydrocarbons to carbon dioxide and water. With less than the stoichiometric amount of oxygen available, the reaction products contain primarily hydrogen and carbon monoxide (and nitrogen, if the reaction is carried out with air rather than pure oxygen), and a relatively small amount of carbon dioxide and other compounds. Subsequently, in a water-gas shift reaction, the carbon monoxide reacts with water to form carbon dioxide and more hydrogen.

Partial oxidation is an exothermic process—it gives off heat. The process is, typically, much faster than steam reforming and requires a smaller reactor vessel. As can be seen in chemical reactions of partial oxidation, this process initially produces less hydrogen per unit of the input fuel than is obtained by steam reforming of the same fuel.

Partial oxidation of methane reaction
CH4 + ½O2 → CO + 2H2 (+ heat)

Water-gas shift reaction
CO + H2O → CO2 + H2 (+ small amount of heat)

Why Is This Pathway Being Considered?

Reforming low-cost natural gas can provide hydrogen today for fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) as well as other applications. Over the long term, DOE expects that hydrogen production from natural gas will be augmented with production from renewable, nuclear, coal (with carbon capture and storage), and other low-carbon, domestic energy resources.

Petroleum use and emissions are lower than for gasoline-powered internal combustion engine vehicles. The only product from an FCEV tailpipe is water vapor but even with the upstream process of producing hydrogen from natural gas as well as delivering and storing it for use in FCEVs, the total greenhouse gas emissions are cut in half and petroleum is reduced over 90% compared to today’s gasoline vehicles.

For more information, see Hydrogen Strategy: Enabling a Low-Carbon Economy from the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Fossil Energy and Carbon Management.

Source: U.S. Department of Energy


5 Top IoT Solutions Impacting the Oil & Gas Industry


The 5 startups you will explore below are chosen based on our data-driven startup scouting approach, taking into account factors such as location, founding year, and relevance of technology, among others. This analysis is based on the Big Data & Artificial Intelligence (AI)-powered StartUs Insights Discovery Platform, covering over 1.3 million startups & scaleups globally.

The Global Startup Heat Map below highlights the 5 IoT startups & scaleups in oil & gas that our Innovation Researchers curated for this report. Moreover, you get insights into regions that observe a high startup activity and the global geographic distribution of the 229 companies we analyzed for this specific topic.

SCADACore – Industrial IoT-based Remote Monitoring

Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) is useful to monitor and control distributed processes. SCADA architectures combine with IoT architecture to deliver web services that enable robust supervisory control. SCADA-based IoT platforms further facilitate data visualization and remote monitoring. IoT platforms also integrate compatible hardware and software devices to enable real-time monitoring from anywhere at any time. This helps energy companies improve asset utilization while reducing downtime.

SCADACore is a Canadian scaleup providing SCADA-based industrial IoT solutions for operators, accountants, and engineers in the oil and gas industry. The startup’s patented real-time monitoring solution, SCADACore Live, features multi-line trending and alarm callouts, analyzes current and historical data, and offers round-the-clock device support. The solution also offers live insights on oil and gas applications such as surface casing vent tests and portable well testing. SCADACore further enables effective offset frac, tank level, regulatory, and artificial lift monitoring.

Codovia – Mobile Applications

Mobile applications revolutionize the oil and gas industry by enabling users to remotely monitor their assets, manage fuel, and derive insights into their operations and customer relationship management (CRM) systems. Moreover, mobile applications offer a global positioning system (GPS)- and geographic information system (GIS)-based tracking for supply chain collaboration. The solutions benefit energy companies by enabling real-time access to reliable and accurate information throughout their value chain.

British startup Codovia integrates IoT technology in the form of cloud-based mobile application solutions for monitoring and controlling, thereby automating operational tasks and processes. Moreover, Codovia’s AI-based solutions combine machine learning, natural language processing (NLP), image processing, big data services, and blockchain technologies. Together, the app allows users to receive real-time assistance in the form of notifications, reports, and graphs.

ThingsConnect – Smart Devices

Smart devices make use of connected wireless technology and support engineers to remotely monitor oil and gas facilities. These devices include widely-used smartphones, tablets, and wall-mounted screens. This technology helps process engineers receive real-time updates and alerts about refinery operations via smart devices. As a result, smart devices for the oil and gas sector improve overall efficiency, asset management, and productivity.

ThingsConnect is a US-based startup providing hardware solutions for connected devices as well as an IoT platform to process and analyze data. The startup designs printed circuit boards and connect smart devices with their IoT platform. ThingsConnect also offers blockchain consulting services using smart contracts and decentralized applications (DApps). For example, the cloud-based DApps and smart devices allow on-site engineers to read Near-Field Communication (NFC) tags, based on radio-frequency identification (RFID) standards to seamlessly track assets.

Amulet – Multi-Sensor Wearables

The oil and gas industry utilizes wearable devices in its daily operations to improve worker safety. For example, industrial-grade multi-sensor wearables detect gas leaks, temperature fluctuations, and pressure variations to warn operators in advance. Wearables further enable managers to record data in the workplace and optimize designs for safety and emergency response.

The US-based scaleup Amulet builds Scarab, a wearable that features 16 sensing solutions to help the workforce understand and act on invisible hazards. Scarab is ideal for use in any location, even in the pockets of the on-site personnel. A mobile app and a web mapping service notify staff in real-time when it detects any danger or abnormality. Further, Scarab records data and sends it to the cloud for detailed analytics to improve decision-making.

FourC – Machine-to-Machine (M2M) Communication

M2M communication typically requires sensors, RFID-enabled devices, WiFi, or cellular networks to communicate. This communication enables the collection, exchange, monitoring, and analysis of valuable energy data. For instance, M2M applications in the oil & gas industry enable predictive maintenance, real-time production, and asset monitoring. M2M communication, along with the IoT technology, reduces downtime, improves worker safety, and streamlines operating efficiency.

Norwegian scaleup FourC creates the distributed FourC Groovy M2M Device Platform for all types of remotely-managed software applications. FourC offers cloud-based database solutions and business logic functions to improve management and surveillance decision-making. The cloud system also supports devices that are not integrated into the FourC Groovy M2M Device Platform. The startup enables oil and gas companies to simultaneously monitor and manage device health data for multiple devices.

Source: startus-insights